Most people in Switzerland are familiar with the iodine tablets distributed by the federal authorities to households that could be affected by an accident at a nuclear power plant. Many are not aware, however, that – for decades – iodised salt has played an important role in health promotion, since iodine deficiency can give rise to health problems such as goitre. The Fluoride and Iodine Commission of the SAMS is concerned with the scientific, technical and policy questions arising in connection with dietary fluoride and iodine intake.
Iodine is an essential micronutrient obtained from the food we eat. As Switzerland is, geologically, an iodine-poor country, locally produced foodstuffs have a low iodine content. Iodine deficiency is associated with an elevated risk of thyroid disorders and dysfunction, which may in turn have adverse effects on health. Iodine requirements are increased in certain population groups – especially in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
In 1922, with the aim of preventing and eliminating iodine deficiency, Switzerland was the first country worldwide to introduce salt iodisation. Goitre caused by iodine deficiency rapidly declined and was ultimately eliminated. Nonetheless, even 100 years after the introduction of iodised salt, education remains an important task.
The focus article in SAMS Bulletin 2/2002 is dedicated to this topic:
2/2022: 100 years of iodised salt in Switzerland: Successful elimination of goitre and cretinism (available in French or in German)
Symposium: «100 years of iodised salt in Switzerland»
In October 2022, a centenary symposium was organised by the SAMS Fluoride and Iodine Commission and the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO). This event focused on current issues and opened a debate on future measures to maintain and improve the iodine status of the Swiss population.
Further information can be found on the website 100 years of iodised salt, available in French or in German.
Programme and presentations
Valérie Clerc, Secretary General, SAMS
Professor Christoph A. Meier, Director, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Zurich (member of Fluoride and Iodine Commission)
Jonah Goodman, journalist, Das Magazin
Dr Maria Andersson, nutrition scientist, University Children’s Hospital Zurich (Chair of Fluoride and Iodine Commission)
Dr Urs Ch. Hofmeier, CEO, Swiss Saltworks
Dr Isabelle Herter-Aeberli, nutrition scientist, ETH Zurich
Privatdozent Dr Katharina Quack-Lötscher, Department of Obstetrics, University Hospital Zurich (member of Fluoride and Iodine Commission)
Dr Barbara Walther, research group leader, Agroscope
Clara Benzi Schmid, scientific collaborator, Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO)
Koang-You Lim, Legal Affairs Division, Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO)